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Russia, Syrian regime hit IS pocket in Daraa

Russian military police stationed near the Syria-Jordan border [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 July, 2018

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Clashes rocked Saham al-Golan on Wednesday, a small rural area located in Daraa's western countryside.
Russian fighter jets and regime forces began pounding a sliver of territory held by the Islamic State in Daraa province on Wednesday. 

Most of Daraa had been quiet since Friday, when a ceasefire between rebels and the regime ended a nearly three-week offensive. 

But Jaish Khaled bin Walid, based in a small area in Daraa's western countryside, was not included in the deal.  

Early Wednesday, Saham al-Golan was hit with dozens of shells and artillery fire, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. 

In retaliation, IS launched an attack southwards on Heet, a rebel-held town that recently agreed to return to regime control.

"Daesh (IS) stormed Heet, detonated a car bomb and advanced there and are also intensely bombing the nearby village of Zaizun," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

IS claimed responsibility on Tuesday for a suicide car bombing in Zaizun that left 14 fighters dead. The claim, distributed through an online messaging service, included the first apparent reference to the south as an official IS "province". 

Wednesday's clashes took place less than six miles from the armistice line with Israeli-occupied Golan and just 2.5 miles from Jordan. 

Anticipating an attack, thousands have fled the IS-held zone in recent days towards the Israeli-occupied Golan.

Around 200,000 displaced people have already sought refuge near the sealed armistice line, according to the UN.

The strategic location makes the south a prize for President Bashar al-Assad. 

Jaish Khalid ibn al-Walid -- once named the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade -- have fought a number of battles with rebel groups since they established control over the Yarmouk Valley area in southwestern Syria.

They were part of the mainstream opposition until they were accused of pledging allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, sparking a war with local rebel groups.

The Syrian regime now controls around 80 percent of Daraa since launching an offensive, with Russian backing, on the southern province on 19 June. 

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